Saturday, September 26, 2015

Your Guide to Baby Care Centers at Walt Disney World Resort

As anyone with little mouseketeers knows, traveling to Walt Disney World Resort with an infant can seem like a daunting and overwhelming task.  However, there are many things in place to make your vacation a little more relaxing and easier to manage.  The Baby Care Centers in each of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World do just that!  Thanks to these convenient locations, my family was able to enjoy a week in the parks with a 5 month old.  Below is a guide to each Baby Care Center so you know what to expect.

Animal Kingdom - This is my favorite Baby Care Center!  The rooms were spacious and colorful here.  When you enter, there is a small seating area with a hostess and supplies you may need - medicine, diapers, wipes, and even changes of clothing.  To the left, you'll find a waiting area for older children and husbands complete with tables and chairs as well as cushioned benches to enjoy the Disney movies that happen to be playing.  In the back are several changing tables, highchairs, and a microwave.  Off of this room are a few private nursing rooms which each feature their own changing table and a rocking chair.  The size and atmosphere of this Baby Care Center made it very relaxing for several nursing breaks during the day.

Each of the Baby Care Centers is located next to First Aid.
Magic Kingdom - This was #2 on my list of Baby Care Centers.  Located behind The Crystal Palace, this center features many of the same separate rooms as Animal Kingdom, only a little less spacious.  At certain times, the Baby Care Center felt crowded.  Another difference is that the nursing room here is not divided into private rooms, but rather it features one large area that is closed off and private from the rest of the Baby Care Center which has about 6 rocking chairs all together.  This room is exclusive to nursing moms so you don't have to worry about being uncomfortable.  I found the moms to be super friendly each time I entered and enjoyed conversations about our vacations, kids, and motherhood in general.

A quiet space to nurse baby inside the Baby Care Center at Magic Kingdom
Epcot - Epcot's Baby Care Center is very similar to that in Magic Kingdom.  Due to the way our schedule worked that day, I only visited this Baby Care Center once and it happened to be about 30 minutes prior to the start of Illuminations.  Perhaps it's because it was so late in the day, but the entire Baby Care Center was empty which worked great to nurse my little guy to sleep.  You'll find this Baby Care Center tucked away next to Mexico between Future World and World Showcase.

Hollywood Studios - This was my least favorite of the Baby Care Centers mainly because of the size.  This Baby Care Center is located inside of Guest Relations and is smaller than a hotel room.  It attempts to have the separate spaces of the other Baby Care Centers, but in doing so makes everything super cramped.  The nursing area here is separated into two private "booths" which was often not enough for the demand required at the park.  Also, each of the other Baby Care Centers had a dedicated cast member to assist moms and dads, but Hollywood Studios did not.  Overall, it served it's purpose, but some more space would go a long way in accommodating the many families traveling with infants.

The fact that Walt Disney World offers such great spaces for families with young children speaks to their commitment to making sure everyone enjoys their day in the parks.  We spent A LOT of time in the Baby Care Centers on our last trip and would not have been able to survive as well as we did without them.  Don't forget that Baby Care Centers are also a great place for older toddlers and young preschoolers too if they need a break from the heat or stimulation.  They also feature kiddie sized potties so that those who are potty training will feel more comfortable then in the busy, big public restrooms.  If you're traveling to Walt Disney World with young ones, be sure to check out these great facilities!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Ice Cream and Atmosphere at The Plaza Restaurant

When you're looking to take a break for a quick bite to eat and a yummy dessert at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, make a reservation to visit The Plaza Restaurant.  We stopped by on our final day of vacation for a lunch reservation before heading to the airport.  It was a great spot for kids and provided some final glimpses of the Cinderella Castle for our family.

The menu at The Plaza Restaurant features mostly sandwiches that are crowd pleasers for guests both young and old.  I chose the reuben which was nicely sized and was served with fries that were crispy and hot.  Dan opted for one of the few sandwich exceptions - the meatloaf meal.  He let me try and bite and it was very flavorful, but seemed a little dry.  While the food was good, it was certainly not a menu that would leave you yearning to come back again and again.  



The highlight of a meal at The Plaza Restaurant is no doubt the ice cream!  Dan couldn't resist the chance to try their banana split and I opted for a chocolate milkshake.  The milkshake was so large that it wouldn't all fit in the cute serving glass so they gave me the extra in a to go cup to enjoy in the park.


Beyond the food, the atmosphere is pleasant and fits in perfectly with the Main Street U.S.A. locale of this restaurant.  The restaurant is small, but offers some great views of Cinderella castle.  We were lucky enough to have a window seat with a perfect view.  We also had the chance to witness a the naming of the Junior Mayor of Main Street U.S.A. while we were there.  Right around noon, the fire chief and mayor entered the restaurant and selected one lucky child to be Junior Mayor!  It was quite the announcement and the young lady received a special blue ribbon and FastPass+ perks.  

While the entrees at The Plaza Restaurant may not leave you wanting to come back the delicious desserts and prime atmosphere make this a great place to visit when looking for a Table Service option in Magic Kingdom!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Talk like a Pirate on Your Next Disney Cruise Line Vacation!

Ahoy, Mateys!

Today is "Talk Like a Pirate Day," making it the perfect chance to highlight all the pirate fun that awaits on your Bahamian and Caribbean cruises.  The Pirates in the Caribbean night features food, entertainment and that splash of pixie dust which combine for a memorable evening where everyone in the family can take part in the fun.

You won't want to miss the pirate fun that awaits!
While you're out enjoying the day, your cabin host will deliver pirate bandanas to your room for the entire family which you're invited to wear that evening.  Some guests join the crew members and characters by bringing their own elaborate pirate costumes, but don't feel like you need to purchase costumes to enjoy the evening.  At dinner, each of the three main dining rooms will be serving a special pirate themed menu.  On both of our Disney Cruise Line vacations, we dined at Animator's Palate on Pirate Night which meant that the dining room featured pirate art from movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Treasure Planet, and Peter Pan on that particular night.

The pirate deck party is great fun for the whole family!
Following dinner, venture outside to the main pool area for a deck party unlike any other.  Pirates are about to take over the ship unless Mickey and friends can save the day!  Don't be surprised throughout the evening to see familiar pirate favorites such as Jake, Captain Hook, Mr. Smee, and Captain Jack joining in the fun.  The deck party  is followed by a truly unique cruise experience - fireworks at sea!

Fireworks at sea!
Of course, your Personal Navigator will have all of the important details for your particular cruise so be sure to check it out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Magic of Disney's Magical Express

For guests staying on property at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, your vacation begins as soon as you arrive at Orlando International Airport.  Each Disney vacation is filled with first-class customer service and it starts with Disney's Magical Express.  So what makes this such a magical part of your vacation?

Who doesn't love seeing this sign from your seat on the Magical Express?
Prior to your trip, you'll receive luggage tags in the mail that you will want to attach to your checked bags.  The first sprinkle of pixie dust occurs when you don't have to worry about retrieving your checked luggage in Orlando!  These yellow tags will make sure that Walt Disney World cast members will get your luggage from the plane to your hotel room without you needing to lift a finger.  When you're excited to get to the parks, not having to visit baggage claim is a great perk!  Just make sure that anything you need as soon as you arrive does not have one of those yellow tags as it may take a few hours to arrive in your hotel.

Disney's Magical Express also provides free roundtrip transportation between the airport and your resort hotel.  After you land in Orlando, follow the signs to B1 (Ground Transportation) and you'll find Disney's Magical Express fleet of busses located at the end.  These motor coaches allow you travel to the resort in comfort and style while enjoying some videos as well about all the fun awaiting at Walt Disney World.  There are a number of busses awaiting guests and each makes stops at several resorts.  But don't worry about finding the right one - cast members will ensure you get on the right bus!
Riding with Daddy on the Magical Express!
And when your vacation is ending, Disney's Magical Express will once again be there to provide a ride for you back to the airport.  The night before your scheduled departure, you'll get a notice on your hotel room door with information regarding what time your pick-up is at your hotel.  Make sure that you are on time for your bus as there is a tight schedule to get everyone to the airport and if you miss your bus time, you may end up having to find another way to the airport.  Even at departure you might be able to be "hands free" when it comes to your luggage as Walt Disney World has partnered with several airlines to off Resort Airline Check-In where you can print your boarding passes and check you bags for your flight.

Taking advantage of this free service is easy!  Just make sure to include your flight information on your vacation reservation and Disney magic will take care of the rest!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Don't forget to eat your vegetables at 50's Prime Time Cafe

Remember all of those dinner rules you heard as a kid?

Keep your elbows off the table!
No dessert until you clean your plate!
Finish all your vegetables!


With a meal at 50's Prime Time Cafe in Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios, "mom" and your "cousins" will remind you of each of these golden rules of dining as you journey back in time.  As you may guess from the name, this table service restaurant, located next to Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, is themed after a 1950's family kitchen.  Black and white checkered decor reminds you of a simple diner while refrigerators, stools, and black and white televisions playing old reruns of some classic shows make you feel as though you are comfortably sitting in mom's kitchen.  What really completes the theme is the terrific wait staff.  The waiters and waitresses here "play" with diners asking questions about how the family has been since they last visited and checking on the cousins who are visiting.  And as they take your order, they'll pass it along to "mom" who is hard at work in the kitchen preparing a delicious dinner.


The food at 50's Prime Time Cafe features traditional comfort foods such as macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, and pot roast.  My husband decided to order the Sampling of Mom's Favorite Recipes which featured fried chicken, meatloaf, and pot roast.  While it was an enormous amount of food, it did not disappoint!  Desserts were also large and palate pleasing.  We split Dad's Brownie Sundae and even with two of us it was too much to handle.


In true Disney spirit, 50's Prime Time Cafe immerses diners in a fun and playful environment.  While the food is tasty, it's truly the interaction with phenomenal cast members and the theming of this restaurant that set it apart from other choices in Hollywood Studios.  This is a great choice for little kids or picky eaters of any age as menu items are classic family favorites.  If you happen to stop by 50's Prime Time Cafe on your next trip to Walt Disney World Resort, say "Hi" to mom for me!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

runDisney - Creating Me Version 2.0

In both my professional and personal life, I'm constantly looking for ways to improve and grow.  I think this is an important quality to possess and I am trying to instill it in my chilldren.  Training for my first runDisney race has forced me outside my comfort zone in a number of ways - all of which challenge me to be a better version of myself.

Ready for a training run!
I'm not the 18 year old runner that I used to be.  13 years, 2 degrees, a career, a husband, and 2 children have changed me both mentally and physically.  There was a time in my life that I wouldn't talk about my training runs unless I was able to maintain a certain pace.  As I've started running again following my second baby, I was ashamed of my training times.  I'm following the Jeff Galloway training plan for beginner half-marathoners which embraces a run/walk strategy.  This is perfect for what I need as I ease my way back into training, but clearly those days of sub-10 minute miles for training runs are gone. . .at least for now.

Then it hit me.  Why am I hiding behind a stopwatch and training plan embarassed by what I'm doing? Shouldn't I be proud?  How awesome is it that I'm training to accomplish a bucket list goal of a half-marathon in the same year that I gave birth to my second child?  It seemed hypocritical that I constantly talk to students about doing their best, while I hide my hard work because I'm afraid it's not good enough.  That's not the spirit of Walt Disney. . .




Remember my runDisney friends, running is about embracing the best you and not worrying about others along the way.  I'm learning to enjoy the journey instead of worrying so much about the destination.  So when you see me at the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in a few weeks, say hi to me - I'll be the one in the last corral with the big smile on my face!

Slow and steady. . .and having fun training for runDisney!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Magic and Lights at Walt Disney World's Main Street Electrical Parade

One of the many things Walt Disney World is known for is superb nighttime entertainment.  When visiting Magic Kingdom, guests can enjoy both Wishes and the Main Street Electrical Parade.  The parade first debuted in Walt Disney World during the late 70s and over the decades has made several different appearances.  The current run of the parade has been rolling down Main Street U.S.A. since 2010.


As a classic parade, you will find some of your favorite classic characters during this nighttime extravaganza.  Little ones will delight in seeing Alice, Snow White, and Cinderella during the parade while also enjoying the pirate antics of Captain Hook and Peter Pan as well.  The lights dazzle guests throughout the Magic Kingdom.  This is the perfect multigenerational parade as grandparents will remember some of their favorites right alongside mom, dad, and the kids too!


Walt Disney World offers a FastPass+ option for this parade which I really enjoyed using.  The viewing for FastPass+ is located in the Town Square area of Main Street, U.S.A.  I was impressed by cast members who managed the area to make sure only those with FastPass reservations were permitted to enter, even after the ropes were taken down and the parade began.  The viewing spot was a great option with our little travelers.  We were able to get a front row seat for our 3 year old without having to get to a viewing spot well before the parade even began.


Between the music, the lights, and the characters, the Main Street Electrical Parade is a nighttime marvel that will create many magical memories!

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